Dr. Rodney Gabel

Communication disorders major Adam Schlagheck (right) learns about therapy techniques from Dr. Rodney Gabel.

Therapy and support for people who stutter

At the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1999, Dr. Rodney Gabel, communication disorders, worked in an intensive clinic for people who stutter. Impressed with the positive results for its clients, he developed a similar clinic at BGSU in 2002, just one year after joining the faculty.

Held six days a week for three weeks in the summer, the Intensive Stuttering Clinic for Adolescents and Adults provides intensive, individual and group therapy. “The therapy is very effective and is conducted in a very traditional, specific manner,” Gabel said. “But it’s tailored to the individual. Not everyone stutters the same way, so there is not one way to treat it. For some people, we help them learn to alter their speech, which might mean making them ‘stutter better.’ For others, the therapy may lead to improved fluency or an absence of stuttering. We take a broad, complex, eclectic approach to treating stuttering.”

In addition to the usual clinical exercises, “our clients discuss their experiences with stuttering,” Gabel said. They also practice real-life situations such as ordering a pizza or making phone calls to get information, using the skills they have learned to improve their fluency.

But “the clinic is not the end. It’s just the beginning of our involvement with our clients,” some of whom come from long distances to BGSU, Gabel said. “We keep in touch with them through e-mails and follow-up programs. We may put them in contact with clinicians closer to home and hold weekend intensive clinics.”

In order to continually refine and improve the department’s clinical services, Gabel and his students are engaged in outcome research to determine not only what the clinicians think but also what the clients think about the therapy. “We also want to track how they develop after the therapy,” Gabel said. “We know that some are stutter-free and some are still stuttering to a degree.”

Derek Daniels and fellow doctoral student Stephanie Hughes are analyzing data from two years of the clinic to look at its effectiveness.

So far, the results have been encouraging, and the department has been “tremendously supportive,” Gabel said. He has previously received financial support from Psi Iota Xi, a national philanthropic sorority specializing in speech and hearing, and the Fort Meigs Sertoma Club. He has applied for another, larger grant from Psi Iota Xi to expand the department’s research and therapy initiatives and bring them under one umbrella. Plans are under way for evening clinics for adults, weekend clinics and after-school clinics for children who stutter.

“I want to take this really good thing we’re doing and provide it to even more people,” he said.

August 28, 2006